Jan Babis given fresh Czech PM post

By Matthew Bristow

BBC News, Prague

A long term critic of the pro-business Mr Babis, the outgoing prime minister’s new post gives him wider powers, but he is expected to be installed in the coming days. Mr Babis has been out of government for the past seven years A former tobacco magnate, Jan Babis has been installed as the Czech prime minister, the first opposition politician to hold the office in a decade. It is the latest twist in a political drama that many experts believe could stretch into the future. Cabinet resigns Czechs elected a new president last month, re-electing Milos Zeman, who campaigned strongly against past economic and political reforms, and who was an opponent of Mr Babis as earlier premier. Mr Babis takes over the reins of power for the second time, having served as prime minister for six months in 2001. But for the moment he says his priorities are to implement the new constitution, which comes into force on Monday, and for the government to resign. Meanwhile, the government is expected to do just that by the end of this week or early next week. ‘Biggest cabinet’ The cabinet was led by Mr Babis’s ANO (YES) Party, a low-key coalition which he is the sole representative of. Its predecessor, SDA, has been in power for the past seven years, and under its leadership the Czech Republic has come a long way. It has so far made steady progress on economic reforms, including privatisation, but there were some worrying signs in 2009, when the bank nationalised in the autumn did not have enough funds to pay off all the bad loans. A series of elections is looming in the Czech Republic Both Mr Babis and his now ex-prime minister Jiri Rusnok, who resigned on Sunday evening, agree that the government of Finance Minister Andrej Babis needs to be dissolved and renewed. Mr Babis and Mr Rusnok are quite different in their political philosophies. The former cabinet was in power for a total of 57 months, while Mr Babis was in office for only six. But, with the elections due early next year, few observers believe the Czech Republic will elect another pro-business, pro-EU prime minister. And with the Czech Republic joining the EU at the end of this year, the current ANO government will need to draft legislation for the country’s rules of origin for goods coming into the EU.

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